Guidelines for energy conservation
By Gunnar Boye Olesen,
For more than a year, an official process has been developing
guidelines for energy conservation. Now, these efforts have produced a Whitebook
and a set of guidelines for European energy conservation. These papers were
approved by the UN-ECE Committee on Environmental Policy this March. They will
finally be approved by the Environmental Ministers at 'hus'98'.
NGOs Made a Difference
By following the development of the official energy conservation
initiative, we as NGOs have had large opportunities to influence the work. From
the main NGO paper on the issue, "NGO Visions for a European Energy Conservation
Strategy", we have developed more concrete proposals on specific issues, some of
which have been adopted, e.g., the idea of a small energy/CO2 tax in
central and eastern European countries to raise revenues for energy efficiency
and renewable energy activities. In many ways, the guideline gives a good basis
for national and international energy conservation activities in Europe, and
goes beyond previous international agreements in the field, e.g., the Energy
Efficiency Protocol to the Energy Charter Treaty.
Not a Perfects Result
Still, the outcome of this process could be much better. It will
only be a guideline and a paper that the countries can follow; it imposes no
obligations. Also, the guidelines and the whole process have put too much
emphasis on the European Energy Charter, which is made for increased energy
trade and has no NGO participation.
With the non-bonding guidelines almost in place, it is time to
think about follow-up. From the task force that developed the guidelines come
proposals of more than 20 follow-up activities, mainly strengthening
international cooperation on different energy conservation activities:
integrating external costs in energy pricing, a common labeling system for
energy-consuming apparatus, cogeneration of heat and power, evaluation of
employment in energy transition, etc.
As NGOs we should also think of a more visionary follow-up than
the officially proposed "digging down in details." We would like more renewable
energy and energy efficiency to be realized.
One of the ways is to impose more binding obligations on the
countries, following the lines of the present nonbonding guideline. This could
be achieved after hus'98 if this process leads up to a prime-ministers'
summit, in which case energy ministers could be involved as well.
The involved NGOs and networks (such as INFORSE-Europe) have
coordinated their activities in the energy and climate group of the European
To join this group, contact INFORSE-Europe. at e-mail: